John Travolta spills on his bizarre first encounter with Quentin Tarantino


Travolta told the story at the Supanova Comic Con & Gaming event in Adelaide where he was asked on stage how he landed the role of Vincent Vega in Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction.

In the early ’90s, when Travolta’s movie career was all but over, the eccentric director invited the actor over to his house.

“All he (Tarantino) wanted to do was spend the evening playing board games of my old movies,” Travolta told the crowd. “For instance, we played the Grease board game, we played the Saturday Night Fever board game, we played the Welcome Back, Kotter board game.

Hollywood star John Travolta during a Q&A at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in Adelaide. Picture: Tom HuntleySource:News Corp Australia

“He just had this fantasy of being with his favourite actor and playing the board games from that actor’s movies,” Travolta recalled.

That wasn’t Tarantino’s only request though.

“He said, ‘If you could possibly become one of those characters out of nowhere, just say a line from Grease, Saturday Night Fever or Kotter, that would make him happy,’ so I would do that,” Travolta said.

Tarantino was clearly impressed by the actor, and at the end of the evening he presented two upcoming movie roles to Travolta.

“One was From Dusk Till Dawn then he offered me Pulp Fiction,” Travolta said. “And he said, ‘You didn’t react so much to the vampire movie but you liked the other movie better. Why?’ I said, ‘I’m not a big vampire person, not that it’s not a great story, it’s just that I liked the Vincent Vega story better’. He said, ‘Oh, interesting’.

Samuel L Jackson with John Travolta and Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.

Samuel L Jackson with John Travolta and Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.Source:News Limited

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“He had already cast Michael Madsen in his mind and that night I changed his mind, one way or another, and he decided to give me that role and offered it to me on the spot,” the actor said.

Madsen, however, has previously said Tarantino offered him the role of Vincent Vega but he turned it down.

“I was already committed to Wyatt Earp (1994 Western movie),” Madsen said in the QT8: The First Eight documentary that was released in October. “And now, here’s Quentin, wants me to do Pulp Fiction. And they were both going at the same time.”

Madsen added that he was happy the role went to Travolta who was able to breathe new life into his career thanks to Pulp Fiction.

“Isn’t it true that part of John Travolta being in it, it became John’s comeback?” Madsen said in the documentary. “He was doing movies about talking babies! And suddenly he’s Vincent Vega! He had that wig on. No one had seen Travolta with a f***ing gun. That’s a huge, huge, huge reason why the movie worked.”

Michael Madsen turned down Pulp Fiction.

Michael Madsen turned down Pulp Fiction.Source:AFP

Pulp Fiction stars.

Pulp Fiction stars.Source:News Limited

Travolta, who is set to share stories from his career during two An Evening with John Travolta events (in Sydney on November 6 and Melbourne on November 10), praised Tarantino for giving him so much freedom on the set of Pulp Fiction.

“He was nothing but generous in that he allowed me to create whatever I wanted to with that part, he didn’t interfere with my interpretation,” Travolta said in Adelaide. “Sometimes he didn’t even know what I was doing, he trusted me that much.

“He said, ‘I’ll figure it out in the edit room. I’m sure John is making sense in the way that he’s playing this’. And when he put it together in the edit room, he said, ‘I didn’t know I made a comedy! You made Pulp Fiction a comedy!’ I said, ‘I had to because there were so many horrifying things happening in it. I’m blowing up this guy’s head and there’s blood all over my face and I wanted to balance that with humour’.

“I love that he allowed me that freedom,” Travolta said.

Pulp Fiction was a hit and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nomination for Travolta.

Quentin Tarantino accepts the Academy Award for Pulp Fiction for Best Original Screenplay.

Quentin Tarantino accepts the Academy Award for Pulp Fiction for Best Original Screenplay.Source:AP

Tarantino recently released his ninth movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and he made headlines earlier this year when he suggested it might have be his last as a director.

“I think when it comes to theatrical movies, I’ve come to the end of the road,” Tarantino told GQ Australia in July. “I see myself writing film books and starting to write theatre, so I’ll still be creative. I just think I’ve given all I have to give to movies.”

There are rumours he may make one movie, and if he does, Travolta desperately wants to star in it.

“I would love to be a part of another film of Quentin’s,” he said in Adelaide. “I’ve been curious why I haven’t. Everyone else has been in other movies and we got born together … well, I got reborn and he got born, and I think that it would be a beautiful match to do something together, especially if it is his last film.

“I can’t imagine, he’s still a young man, why he would want it to be his last film. If that were the case I would certainly want to be a part of it.”

You can hear more amazing showbiz stories from the actor at ‘An Evening with John Travolta’ in Sydney on Wednesday, November 6 at The Star and in Melbourne on Sunday, November 10 at the Palais Theatre. You can buy tickets here.



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